“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”
This scripture was on a card sent to me by a friend shortly after he found out I had cancer. When I opened the card, and read those words, I sobbed. I sobbed because it was EXACTLY what I needed to read and needed to know, that I would be ok. It was those words that got me through some very scary times in these last 7 years. Those words were, and still are, my lifeline.
Growing Up With God
I was raised in a Christian home, so God and Jesus have always been a part of my life. Growing up, I went through Sunday school, all the way through into high school. I was in youth group, church camp, and everything I could be involved in with church. It was the foundation for me. During my preteen and early teen years, the time spent at youth groups, church retreats and camps really solidified my relationship with God.
This relationship came and went over the next few years of my life; I got interested in other things as I got older (boys!) and graduated, moved out, and struck out on my own. I was living my life! I didn’t need or have time for church—I was too busy having a good time. But deep down, I always knew God was with me. I prayed to him sporadically, when I needed his “help” or said a quick “Thank you God” prayer when something good happened. No matter what, I always knew He was around.
Fast-forward 20 years—I was pregnant with my first and only baby, and the urge to find a church for a foundation for my baby to grow up with was so strong. I asked all my clients what church they went to and why. I wanted to find the “right” one for my new family and I did. I had a client who would later become the friend who sent me the card with the bible verse, who told me about this wonderful church that fit my laundry list of requirements. Church being close to home was a big one and I was happy to check this church out. I was also happy to learn that he was the music director there. I started attending when I was pregnant and really liked it; now I call that church my own. It has been a haven for me, a safe place in a turbulent storm, a place of prayer, of wonderful friendships, and great people. Things have a way of working out; I say it was God working in my life because He knew I would need that church with what was going to happen in my life.
“This is not unto death”
It was just a few short months later that I was diagnosed. I believe God was with me through the whole nightmare of diagnosis. It took a few weeks of knowing something was seriously wrong, until November 21st, 2005, just 3 1/2 months after Lily was born, when we got the news I had malignant pleural mesothelioma. To say it was a shock is an understatement. I immediately started to pray, even more than before. I asked God to just put us where we needed to be. During my mom’s prayers heard God say to her plain as day, “This is not unto death”. Those words were HER life raft. She and I would pray them together and still proclaim it. My parents were praying with the pastor of the church I attended in my later teen years, and my pastor told my Dad, “Don’t worry about Heather, she is a Lighthouse. She will be a beacon of light for those in danger of crashing on the rocks.” Because of those words, I have a huge picture of a lighthouse in the middle of turbulent sea displayed in my home to remind me of my purpose.
I am a Lighthouse
I have found that a cancer diagnosis will do one of two things to a person. A diagnosis will either turn someone away from God and cause the person to be angry, as in why would God do this to me? Or it will make you run to Him and seek comfort in His presence. That is what it did for me. My faith was strengthened throughout my journey, and it continues to grow, as I do, as my journey progresses. That scripture from Jeremiah 29:11 still brings me great comfort, and I read it almost daily. Does it mean that I float through life without a care or concern? No. I am, after all, human. I have my emotions, my doubts, my anxiety and my anger, but my walk with God helps keep it all in perspective. The one thing never changes. I know He loves me and he wants what is best for me. God never promised us a life of perfect harmony. I have never asked “Why me, God?” Instead I’ve asked, “Why NOT me, God? Use me, use my story, and if it brings hope to one person, I’ve done You proud!”
That is why, to this day, I share my story of hope and of my faith. My faith has been the thing that gets me through. All I have to do is think of all the amazing things that have transpired and all the incredible people I’ve met through my journey. I thank God each and every day for all I have. Do I know how long I’ll be around? No, none of us do. But while I’m here, I want to be what God has put me here to do and that is to be a beacon of hope. I am, after all, a lighthouse.